Jonathan Demme

One is supposed to say R.I.P. at these times, but why? I want Jonathan Demme to get up, dust himself off, and make more movies. I don’t want him to be dead.

Demme was just starting to make his best work just as I was growing up and becoming aware of the variety of contemporary cinema, so even if I haven’t always followed what he was doing so closely, he felt close. He seemed nice, too, something you got from his films as well as from his affable interviews. Though major movie-makers are usually somewhat tough, to say the least, it would be a real surprise to learn anything bad about this guy.

If Demme sometimes arguably compromised too much with audience tastes, squeamishly excluding any kissing from PHILADELPHIA, for instance, he clearly did so in hopes of making his greater points as successfully as possible. If SILENCE OF THE LAMBS offends, I’m prepared to believe it was a miscalculation, and due to prejudices inherent in the story, and something he would have changed if he could. PHILADELPHIA seems like an attempt at atonement, which is partly why it lacks real passion. I want to remember his fun stuff, SOMETHING WILD and the always-underrated MARRIED TO THE MOB and SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA and STOP MAKING SENSE. My sluggardly ways mean that I still have quite a bit of Demme to catch up on — the exciting stuff, to me, is the documentaries and performance films (important to distinguish the two genres, as Demme always did). I can watch those and when I do, Demme will be alive.



11 Responses to “Jonathan Demme”

  1. Well said. MELVIN AND HOWARD and SOMETHING WILD did it for me.

  2. I’ve always found MELVIN AND HOWARD something of a miracle. That and MARRIED TO THE MOB are my two favorites. Wonderful filmmaker.

  3. I’ve got the weirdest blind spot on M&H, which I ought to love much more than I do. It definitely leads into the ones I adore.

  4. “Caged Heat” is still my favorite. Barbara Steele at her most sublime AND a score by John Cale.

  5. HANDLE WITH CARE was my first Jonathan Demme. They were *giving away* tickets to it at The Waverly on 6th Avenue. I guess they figured they made all their money on popcorn anyway? What a lovely, sweet-natured movie. Another early fave was his TV movie WHO AM I THIS TIME, with Susan Sarandon & Christopher Walken. They’re both so good in this I wish they’d done a dozen movies with Demme. This one has a John Cale score, too.

  6. I’d forgotten about the Vonnegut adaptation — probably the best one before Mother Night.

    There was a sweetness and an effortless cool to so many of Demme’s films, and he could also strip it down to the simple and sombre if required.

  7. I just loved his work. I appreciative that David introduced me to Demme’s films, as he did with so many other film industry figures. Love on ya!

  8. When it comes to kissing, and non-squeamishness in general, je me prefer Christphe Honore.

  9. All the others mentioned, plus CRAZY MAMA and CITIZENS BAND (his first to get some notice from critics). And SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was the first good movie since at least 1978 (depending on your Woody Allen tolerance) to win a best picture Oscar.

  10. Am annoyed that I missed a chance to pick up a copy of The Agrarian recently. I should binge on his docs and performance films, I love those I’ve seen.

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